It is finally safe to say that spring has finally arrived. Philadelphia will see April showers and sunny days, which can only mean that the Quakers baseball team will be battling the rest of the Ancient Eight for 2005 Ivy League Title. Represented by 12 seniors, the Quakers have strong leadership and experience, but they will be without one of the most diverse players in the school’s history, Brain Winings.
In the sport of baseball, every position differs from the next in that each requires its own skills and abilities. However, there is a distinct difference between pitching and the other positions. On a rare occasion, a player may be able to play multiple positions or even transform from the field to pitching or vice versa. Originally thought to be the catcher for the Quakers, Winings has made the transformation from catcher to closing pitcher to a starter. But Winings did not just change his position he made a name for himself and is now has the opportunity to take his game to the next level.
“I originally was recruited to play catcher,” stated Winings. “My high school team was great. Our coach wanted a closer though. I was only able to play a couple of games, but I was throwing hard. I continued to catch and pitch during the summer, and I was still throwing hard. When I came to Penn, I talked to the coaches about pitching, and they gave me a couple of opportunities.”
During his freshman campaign, Winings started as the Quaker’s catcher, but he did close games as well. The strength and power of his pitches were perfect to close games. In his sophomore year, Winings continued to catch, but he pitched more and more, and then it happened.
“At the end of my sophomore year, I pitched against Cornell. There was a (Cleveland) Indians scout who saw me throw a pitch that clocked 93 on the radar gun. He became interested and started to follow my play.”
That summer Winings would return home to play for the Vienna Mustangs in the Clark Griffith League. Winings only strengthened why the scouts should be interested in him. He recorded a 0.00 ERA in his 18 appearances and also tied the league record with 10 saves. “More and more scouts started to watch me, especially during the summer when I was playing really well,” admitted Winings.
Winings prevailed during his sophomore season for the Quakers. He set a Penn single-season record and led the Ivy League with eight saves, but still managed to keep the name of Mr. Versatility. Winings played in all 18 games as the catcher and designated hitter, starting in 13. Before he was sidelined with a knee injury, Winings had a batting average of .340 with a slugging average of .574. “My sophomore year was my best year as a hitter,” admitted Winings, who then began to pitch more and more.
“During my junior year, I went from closer to starting pitcher. It is a big adjustment going from catching and hitting all the time to all of the sudden, being primarily a pitcher.” Changing his roles for the team meant practicing and preparing differently as well. “Practice became completely different for me. I had to focus on pitching, where before I caught a lot and hit a lot. Hitting is the most fun thing in baseball. I have always enjoyed hitting more. It makes me miss all aspects of the game,” admitted Winings. Despite missing all aspects of the game, Winings found success as a pitcher.
“During the winter, a scout wrote a report on me which went on the [Major League Baseball] MLB website, which then can be viewed by all 30 major teams. More and more teams became interested in me. My name was being passed around, especially on the internet.” During the summer following his junior year, Winings was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 2004 New Player Major League Baseball draft. Despite being drafted, Winings is still open to other options. “When it came time for contracts, they asked me what I wanted for a signing bonus. I asked for them to pay my last year of my college tuition. I would attend school in the fall, play for them in the spring. I would then finish my last semester in the fall and play with them again in the spring.” Former Quaker and teammate Rus Bracato took the same course with the Baltimore Orioles as he finished his education this past fall. “They did not accept the deal though. They didn’t have the motivation after I got hurt. It was pretty cool to be drafted though.”
Winings tore his Labrum at the end of April of his junior year, and proceeded to pitch the entire year with pain. “I pitched during the summer with pain and still pitched pretty hard. As I threw more and more, my shoulder got worse and worse. It’s tough that I am not able to pitch my senior year, but it’s a little exciting to see how hard I will able to throw with a healthy shoulder,” admitted Winings. The major league scouts share Winings philosophy, which is why most are still interested in him. “I am going to get surgery right after graduation. It is really important that I rehab now, to strengthen my shoulder, that way I can bounce back quicker.”
After completing rehab, Winings will begin his trek to entering the major leagues. “I am going to try to get scouts to watch me and go to team workouts. It’s important for me to recover and bounce back as quickly as possible.” Luckily Winings has some experience with team workouts as he has already participated with the White Sox and Indians.
But for now, Winings has to focus on getting healthy. Although restricted from pitching, Winings tries to get involved as much as possible. “It was tough initially when I found out that I needed surgery and couldn’t pitch. I’ve been catching in the bull pen though and even swinging. It doesn’t hurt when I swing the bat, just when I throw hard.”
With a mentality of never giving up, Winings will have the confidence from friends, family and the Quakers to bounce back and complete his dream of pitching professionally.
Written by Matt Lambach, C’07